Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth. - John Wesley
I love this line.
Entering my seventh month in an administrative position in a small United Methodist Church in the northwest Chicago suburbs, I've learned a few things.
Thing One: A line like this would land like a chorus of farts in most congregations. See, a name was misspelled in the bulletin, and you do know that we just can't adopt technology that would make giving easier and is proven to increase giving because someone somewhere might notice people aren't putting anything in the offering plate on Sunday. Oh, and did I mention that a birthday was mentioned of a person who hasn't darkened the doorway of the church building in almost five years.
Even more than Lazarus' death, this is the kind of thing that makes Jesus weep.
Thing Two: If churches actually heard a line like this, not necessarily over and over, but perhaps just two or three times, some folks might think, "Really? We can do that?" Not everyone; one thing is as sure as God made the sun rise in the east, and that's the simple fact some folks will complain about everything.
Thing Three: I think this phrase should be emblazoned above every United Methodist sanctuary in the United States. Maybe the world. John Wesley wasn't messing around; of course, I doubt John Wesley knew how to mess around. Even the smallest congregation has is something that should inspire awe in any group gathered together calling itself "church".
I shouldn't sound so harsh. Our churches, regardless of size, already do so much in and for this hurting world. And, of course, it is never enough. All the same, we need to be reminded just who we are, and what we could do, if we let go of our fear that someone might notice we're being faithful.